Monday, May 11, 2015

Reconstructing Philanthropy - From the Funder's Side

As fundraisers, it’s almost a rite of passage to bemoan restricted funds and the problems it can create for our organizations. Even if we receive a gift with strings that is focused on one of our program priorities, it can create problems in the future if we need to shift our work.

Of course, it’s one thing for a fundraiser to bring up these issues, but quite another when a funder does. And that’s what makes Paul Shoemaker’s take on reconstructing philanthropy so important. He’s NOT a fundraiser—he’s the executive connector at Social Venture Partners Seattle and a board member at several charities. But it’s clear he understands fundraising and what restricted funds (or as he calls them, Quite Damaging Dollars, or QDDs) can do to a charity.

In his longer paper, Reconstructing Philanthropy From the Outside-In (which I encourage you to read through), he talks about rebuilding philanthropy through five practices for funders:

Give unrestricted funds;
Fund long-term;
Connect with peers;
Build great boards; and
Listen to beneficiaries

As Paul says, none of these ideas are new. Many fundraisers and others have been discussing some of these changes for a while—although perhaps quietly for fear of not wanting to upset funders. But we can’t change philanthropy all by ourselves. Philanthropy is a partnership, and we need to engage—and support—all of the participants in the philanthropic process.

I hope Paul’s paper is a clarion call for funders and the entire sector to talk about these sorts of changes, just as the CompassPoint Underdeveloped study forced fundraisers to look at how we work with boards, executive staff and others.

Because it’s not just about unrestricted funds—it’s about all of us working together towards our common goal: reigniting philanthropy and create greater impact to better serving our communities and our world.

Monday, May 4, 2015

NRC Survey Brings Welcome News

A lot of great news came out of the conference—so much so I’m having trouble getting to it all! Some of the best news was the results from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s 2014 Year-End Fundraising Survey.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) is a group of nonprofits, associations and for-profits serving the sector who are putting their efforts together in creating and supporting one common fundraising survey to support fundraising and philanthropy.

With the Year-End Survey, we found that 73 percent of charities met their fundraising goals in 2014, the best result since we began asking the question in 2010 and a marked increase over the 63 percent that met goal in 2013.

In addition, 63 percent of 2014 respondents saw growth in funds raised—again, the best result since the annual surveys began in 2010.

If you go back and look at AFP’s previous State of Fundraising Surveys—which asked the same questions—those are the sorts of success figures we saw before the recession.

And there’s lots more good news from the survey as well—you can find the full results here.

Big picture: I think the survey is important because it shows that, for the most part, national economies have balanced out. There are no huge, overarching trends—at the moment—like the economy that are going to significantly impact our fundraising, for the most part. The focus, as it should be, is on local issues and our fundraising skills and preparation.

The environment may change, and possibly very quickly. But it’s time to do all the things we say we will when the conditions are tough and we wish for better times and the resources to do a bit more. THIS is that time—when we need to put together everything we’ve learned from our own work, our mentors and from events like the recent International Fundraising Conference—and put them into action.

I hope AFP—whether it’s our International Headquarters, one of our chapters, or even an individual colleague or mentor—can help you. Whether it’s an online course or program, or one of our events, or even a research piece like the NRC study, there are so many resources available. And we need to use them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Honoring Service

If there’s a word we don’t use enough in the sector, it is service.

But I think that service defines who we are and what we do: we are servants of the public trust, and we serve our communities.

Service is neither glamorous nor easy. But there are no words to describe the feeling we get when we know our efforts have a made a difference in the lives of someone. In the health of our communities. In the state of our environment and the world.

That’s why it’s always a special opportunity to recognize those who have given so much of themselves—who have dedicated their lives to service.

At our Celebration of Philanthropy dinner during the recent International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, AFP had the great honor to recognize four such individuals who have served and given back so much to the fundraising community and all of philanthropy:
Each of these individuals has demonstrated extraordinary selflessness, generosity, commitment and dedication to the principles of ethical fundraising and philanthropy.  I’ve gotten to know all of them, and they are the epitome of what it means to be a fundraiser and engage in a life of service—a goal we should all aspire to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The AFP Conference: Something for Everyone

I always think our conferences are great events, but Baltimore 2015 was something special.

Bringing together the fundraising community is always uplifting, but add in our growing optimism, the great variety of sessions offered, and the amazing diversity of attendees—and the result was a unique feeling that left me very inspired in very different ways.

I think our general session speakers underscore that feeling. Whoopi Goldberg was, as you’d expect, very funny and off the cuff (with some very insightful perspective on the profession), but also very personal, talking about her mother and why she gives. That she made our chair’s face turn 50 Shades of Red during their chat after her speech was simply an added bonus!

Seth Godin was more strategic, talking about how the world is changing and what that means for philanthropy. His was a speech both cutting and entertaining, and in the end, provided some real guidance for us all.

And then Isabel Allende. Quieter than the other two, but she didn’t have to speak too loud. She let her stories speak for her, and they were extraordinary—alternately both humorous and deeply moving.

An unlikely trio, perhaps, yet I felt they covered the whole spectrum of what it means to be engaged in philanthropy—and more accurately, what it FEELS like to be engaged in philanthropy. Completely different approaches in their speeches, but all of them were so inspiring.

If you attended Baltimore, I hope you felt the same way.

One of the great strengths of AFP is that we represent all subsectors and all types of fundraising around the world. There truly IS something for everything, and the different aspects of philanthropy we cover can provide new innovations and inspire in ways we might never have considered otherwise.

Let me know how you felt about Baltimore and our 2015 International Fundraising Conference, and I hope to see everyone next year in Boston, March 20 – 22!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

See You in Charm City!

The AFP 52nd International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore, Md., is almost upon us, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.

There’s so much going on at the conference—with over 100 educational sessions, the Marketplace, three amazing general session speakers, to name just a few—but I what I really love are all of the people. Seeing everyone there—thousands of fundraisers from all regions of the world—is an exhilarating experience.

You may have heard me say this before, but there’s nothing like looking around the Marketplace floor or walking between educational sessions and realize just how many people are with you at the conference—people who share your experiences, your principles and your desire to transform the world through fundraising and philanthropy.

It’s an amazing experience and makes you feel reinvigorated about what we do. And that’s one of the most undervalued parts about our conference—the wide breadth and diversity of people you can meet at the conference. The conference isn’t just a chance to learn and train from our presenters—it’s an opportunity to learn from your colleagues. Whether it’s after a session or during one of our networking events, what you can share with your colleagues is just as valuable.

Fundraisers from all over the world, from different types of organizations and involved in different types of fundraising, will be attending. You’ll hear more variety and more perspective in Baltimore than anywhere else, with everyone taking stock of what’s worked—and what hasn’t—over the past year, and what we can expect in the year ahead.

Hearing those stories—what people like you have accomplished in similar situations—is an amazing opportunity, and one I hope you’ll be taking advantage of in just a few days in Baltimore.

And if you can’t be with us, stay abreast of everything happen with our Facebook conference page, as well as main twitter handle, #afpfc.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Much Are Fundraisers Giving Back?

As fundraisers, the heart of our work is the impact we have—on our organizations, on our communities and on the world. It’s the core of our profession: inspiring others to get involved and create impact.

But what about our own personal ability to get involved and create impact? Do we walk the walk as well as we talk the talk?

I’ve met so many AFP members around the world, and my personal answer is an unqualified yes. To a person, it seems every fundraiser I’ve met is involved in volunteerism, and often serving as a board member for a charity, and giving to charity—often to the organization they work for, as well as countless others.

But we’ve never tried to formally get a sense of how much fundraisers really do give back—until now.

Joe Matassino, a member with our Delaware, Brandywine Chapter, put together a short survey to do just that—measure how much members are giving back. He wrote a great blog about it.

We’re taking this idea and bringing it to our entire membership. There’s a survey for our chapters in U.S., Canada and Mexico, and for members in other countries.

I strongly encourage you to take part in this survey about how much you give and volunteer. It’s short and won’t take you more than ten minutes. And it will provide us all with more information about the true impact of our community—the fundraising community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

National Philanthropy Day Every Day

I hope you’re working on submitting your nominations for our National Philanthropy Day Honors program. Anyone can submit a short, “selfie” video—just you talking to the camera, speaking from the heart as you describe how your nominee is changing your the world.

Part of our core responsibilities as fundraisers is recognition, and I know each of you has at least one donor or supporter—individual or organization—that has had significant impact on your organization and your community. So please submit a nomination, and we’re excited about our National Philanthropy Day Honors event in New York City in November later this year.

But as much as we focus on one day in November and our final honorees, we want to make National Philanthropy Day bigger than just one day. Because philanthropy is bigger than just one day.

There’s so much amazing philanthropy that occurs every day, and we want to be able to celebrate it all. That’s why we’ll be using the National Philanthropy Day campaign and its website to highlight philanthropy throughout the year. We want to illustrate the diverse and often complicated tapestry that is philanthropy by profiling donors, volunteers, corporations, foundations and young people every week.

We want your stories. We want your videos. We want to hear about how different people are vastly dissimilar things, but all related to philanthropy and helping make a difference. Even if your nominee isn’t selected as our final honoree, it’s likely we’ll be highlighting him or her at some point throughout the year.

People want to be philanthropic. But they don’t always know how to start, and sometime they need inspiration.

National Philanthropy Day can be that inspiration.

Help us demonstrate the amazing impact that philanthropy has on our society and our world. Submit a nomination, tell us a story and help us celebrate National Philanthropy Day every day in 2015.